NordicTrack 8.5 S Treadmill Review – Pros and Cons 2020

Last Updated: April 9, 2020
NordicTrack T 8.5s Treadmill Review

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The NordicTrack 8.5 S is the middle treadmill in NordicTrack’s T-Series. This is a compact, foldable treadmill with upgraded tech, a bit of cushioning in the deck, and a lovely 10” touchscreen that showcases iFit — NordicTrack’s workout database of classes and content. We are impressed with the sturdy build and excellent functionality on the 8.5 S. It is a great treadmill at a great price!

Who It’s For: Users who want quality and functionality at an affordable price point

The NordicTrack 8.5 S features some impressive options:

  • High-end tech on a compact footprint
  • 3.5HP Motor
  • Low price tag
  • +12% incline
  • 12mph max speed
  • 1-year free iFit membership
  • 50 Onboard programs
  • FlexSelect cushioning
  • 20” by 60” tread belt
Pros
  • Crisp, full-color 10” touchscreen
  • FlexSelect Cushioning in the deck
  • Extra long 22” wide by 60” long running platform
  • Nice 3.5HP motor for walking, jogging and light running
  • Expansive iFit database included free for the first year
  • 12% incline and 12mph max speed give you plenty of training challenges
  • Folds up when not in use
  • EKG grips on handlebar for heart rate zone training
Cons
  • Heart rate chest strap not included
  • Not ideal for heavy training


FeaturesSpecifications
  • FlexSelect™ Cushioning

    The NordicTrack 8.5 S is designed to create a solid foot strike and healthy toe-off while also providing a bit of cushioning in the deck for both comfort and joint support.

  • 20” x 60” Commercial Tread Belt

    This is the same size tread belt as NordicTrack’s Commercial series treadmills. It offers you abundant forward/aft length as well as more lateral space while running.

  • 3.5 CHP DurX™ Commercial Plus Motor

    A DurX 3.5HP motor is powerful enough to support walking, jogging and light running. This may not be ideal for heavy training or daily use by multiple users, but if you are a single user who wants to walk and jog regularly, the 8.5 S is an excellent option.

  • SpaceSaver® Design with EasyLift™ Assist

    The 8.5 S treadmill has the same size running belt as all the Commercial series treadmills! The 22” width and 60” length is a spacious running platform that will fold up to save space when you are finished.

  • 10” Smart HD Touchscreen

    NordicTrack has added full-color touchscreens to most of their T-series and all their Commercial series treadmills. The addition of a touchscreen makes the treadmill a more fun and effective way to train indoors.

  • Includes 1-Year NordicTrack iFit® membership

    iFit includes over 16,000 different workout classes and programs that you can watch on or off the treadmill. iFit includes walking, jogging, hiking, running and combo classes that all look great on the 10” touchscreen.

  • 50 On-Board Workout Programs

    For those who don’t want to use or pay for iFit, the 8.5 S comes with 50 preloaded programs already on the treadmill that do not require a subscription.

  • 0-12% Incline

    12% incline is impressive for a folding treadmill! Walking or running on an incline burns more calories than running at the same speed on a flat road — so you get more out of your workout in the same amount of time. Incline training also allows users to stay low impact (walk) but still increase heart rate for intense cardio training.

  • 0-12 MPH Speed

    12mph is about the fastest speed you get on an indoor treadmill. The NordicTrack 8.5 S provides you with all the speed you will need for HIIT, sprints, interval training, heart rate training, etc.

  • 10-Year Frame Warranty

    This is an impressive warranty! NordicTrack backs up their equipment with solid warranties that reflect the quality of construction and design.

Construction:

  • FlexSelect™ Cushioning
  • 20” x 60” Commercial Tread Belt
  • 3.5 CHP DurX™ Commercial Plus Motor◊
  • 1.9” Precision and Balanced Non-Flex Rollers
  • 300 Lb. User Capacity
  • SpaceSaver® Design with EasyLift™ Assist
  • 78.5” L x 35.5” W x 59” H Footprint

Console:

  • 10” Smart HD Touchscreen
  • Includes 1-Year NordicTrack iFit® membership
  • Bluetooth® Audio Capabilities
  • Dual 2” Digitally Amplified Speakers
  • AutoBreeze™ Workout Fan
  • Integrated Tray
  • One Touch® Controls
  • 50 On-Board Workout Programs

Functionality:

  • Includes 1-Year NordicTrack iFit® membership
  • 0-12% Incline
  • 0-12 MPH Speed
  • 50 On-Board Workout Programs
  • FlexSelect™ Cushioning
  • EKG Grip Pulse

Warranty:

  • 10-Year Frame Warranty
  • 2-Year Parts Warranty
  • 1-Year Labor Warranty

In-depth Review of NordicTrack 8.5 S T-Series Treadmill


Construction:

Frame

The 8.5 S is a hearty little treadmill that offers many of the features found on the Commercial treadmills. It has a steel frame with side rails and cross beams under the deck for extra support. Powder coated uprights support the console and handrails. The deck is constructed of a composite material that keeps the running surface durable and solid.

Handrails

  • Depth:17” handrails extend from the back of the console forward, alongside the deck. The rear 7” are covered in black plastic molding, matching the console. The front 11” are coated with a soft, spongy grip material for a convenient handle.
  • Width: 30” horizontal handrail extends in front of the console. This grip has EKG sensors for each hand.
  • Comfort: I like the spongy material that lines the forward handrails. More expensive treadmills have a black plastic molding here that protects the rails, but I actually prefer the material on the 8.5 S.

Deck

  • Cushioning:FlexSelect cushioning gives you the best of both worlds. You can turn the cushioning “on” via a lever on the side of the deck. When cushioning is on, the running surface has more flexibility, which reduces joint impact and discomfort while jogging or running. If you want to train for an outdoor event, you can turn the cushioning “off” which limits travel under the deck so there is less flexibility. This simulates outdoor surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. We love the cushioning feature on the 8.5 S, but you always have the option to turn it off if needed.
  • Length/Width:The 22” wide by 60” long tread belt is the same size as the more expensive Commercial series treadmills. This is 2” wider and a whopping 5” longer than comparable treadmills. The extra length provides full stride length with just a little extra wiggle room along the sides. Be aware that on any treadmill, it can be tempting to run at the top of the deck right in front of the console. This position will sometimes cause your foot to graze the top of the motor hood. If you reposition your stride just a bit farther back, a step or two away from the console, it is easier to take advantage of the full stride length on the 8.5 S and you are less likely to contact the motor hood.
  • Hood: The hood on the 8.5 is a bit long. It protrudes 13” from the front of the deck. While it isn’t raised as high off the deck as the Sole F63 machine, I did graze it a few times with my shoe. As mentioned above, if I took a step back, I didn’t contact the motor hood.
  • Belt: The commercial grade belt on the 8.5 S is durable with a slightly textured surface. I’ve run on other treadmills in this price range and the feel of the belt can vary tremendously. The 8.5 S belt is not overly slick nor does it catch the sole of my shoe while in use.

Motor

The 3.5HP motor on the 8.5 S is a self-cooling system that is designed to absorb extra vibration. This hearty motor is a huge step up from the 6.5 Si which has a 2.6HP motor and only a fractional difference from the 3.6HP motor in the 9.5 S treadmill. While this isn’t designed for heavy daily use by multiple users, it will comfortably support a bit of running and plenty of jogging and walking by one or two users. The motor controls both speed and incline adjustments, and the 3.5HP 8.5 S motor is seamless in handling both. Incline adjustments are smooth and there is no hiccup or lag when moderating your speed. You can hike, jog, walk, and get plenty of conditioning on this 3.5HP motor. Check out iFit’s hiking classes — they are super fun and with the 12% incline you can work hard while staying low impact!


Console/Controls:

NordicTrack has been integrating full-color touchscreens into most of their T-series treadmills and it makes a huge difference! Not only is the touchscreen more functional — it is easy to use and makes the classes feel real and engaging. We are impressed with the bright graphics and crisp resolution on the 8.5 S touchscreen.

Screen

  • The 10” touchscreen is surprisingly crisp with good resolution and bright graphics. The studio classes are fine, but the outdoor routes are where the videography really excels. iFit offers running, jogging, hiking and walking routes all over the world, each of which is led by a personal trainer who is actually on the trail. While along the route, you pass real people, and since the treadmill will incline and decline to match the actual terrain, the whole experience feels very real. There is no shortage of training options and the full-color touchscreen makes it easy to see and navigate all the programs and classes. Much of the functionality of the console is embedded in the touchscreen, which clears up the console nicely. You can adjust speed, incline, fan power and volume on the touchscreen as well as the console. iFit has categorized the classes and trainers so finding the right option is easy via the thumbnail pictures of each trainer and route. A brief overview of each class helps too. We love the touchscreen interface on the 8.5 S!

Layout

  • QuickControl buttons flank the screen for easy reach and visibility. The layout of the console is streamlined and simple, making navigation easy. Manual +/- controls for incline and speed are set just below, at approximately thumb height. Start and Stop and the Safety Key buttons are also centered and easy to see. You can also adjust volume and fan power here. The front grip bar runs horizontally at the base of the console with EKG sensors on either side for heart rate stats.

Speakers/Other Accessories

  • Two 2” Amplified Speakers sit on the sides of the console and provide plenty of volume. The sound is crisp. Volume can be regulated to control: overall sound, music, and trainer. I like that you can turn the music all the way down and turn the trainer’s voice all the way up. In addition to speakers, I would like NordicTrack to offer Closed Captioning for iFit programs. This is not presently available.
  • Storage Pockets on either side of the console are wide and deep enough to accommodate large water bottles.

Functionality:

Performance

The NordicTrack 8.5 S treadmill performed well under several speed and incline tests. The motor is responsive during both speed and incline adjustments so the deck moves steadily while inclining. The FlexSelect cushioning feels nice underfoot and the 10” touchscreen makes everything more fun and engaging. We are impressed with the overall performance of the NordicTrack 8.5 S.

Incline range


It’s impressive to get a 12% incline on a compact, folding treadmill at this price point. The 12% incline adds multiple training variables since you can combine any number of speed settings with various incline settings for varied training and conditioning. Walking or jogging at an incline requires greater involvement by the muscles in the posterior chain such as the glutes and hamstrings to maintain good balance. Incline training also burns more calories than working at a flat grade — so you can crank up that calorie burn and stimulate more muscle growth but stay low-impact!

50 Pre-programmed workouts

For those days when you just want to climb on the treadmill and go, the onboard programs provide lots of preset options for: intervals, hills, calorie burn, fat burn, etc. When you select any program, the display provides a graph of the full routine, so you know what to expect. A simple manual lap screen is also available. There’s no audio in these programs, so they are great to keep track of your stats while you listen to music, a podcast or even read a book.

Manual Mode


In addition to the preloaded programs, the 8.5 S also has a manual mode where you watch your progress around a white track. The stats bar at the top of the screen keeps track of your workout metrics for you.

Subscription Options: iFit

iFit is NordicTrack’s premier fitness database. iFit is constantly updated and offers over 16,000 different workouts.

  • Studio-based classes include: bootcamp, interval training, and combo routines that alternate strength training with running segments. The trainer provides direction as he/she works alongside you and other participants in the studio. iFit automatically adjusts the speed and incline for you at the direction of the trainer. (You can override this at any point — just hit any QuickControl speed or incline button to adjust as needed.)
  • iFit also offers outdoor runs in any number of exotic places. I joined Gideon Akande on a run through Dragon Crest trail in Krabi, Thailand. You follow along on the treadmill as he navigates the real terrain just ahead of you. The treadmill automatically inclines and declines to match the actual grade as you run. The scenery is breathtaking and Gideon did a good job of keeping it interesting. The total caloric expenditure is calibrated to match your weight, incline and speed so if you go faster or slower, it will be reflected in your stats. However, the program and distance is set, so even if you run faster, the trainer and route will take the preset time to complete.
  • Off-the-treadmill classes are also available. Log into iFit from any tablet or computer and from the Main Menu bar, select the “Daily Workout” tab. It will bring up class options like: kickboxing, yoga, HIIT, dumbbells or Fit in 15 (for when you only have 15minutes). You do not need to be by your treadmill to access these classes, which means you can use iFit even while travelling.

iFit provides enough options and programs that it eliminates the need for a gym membership. I would recommend perusing NordicTrack’s website and the iFit website to see everything it has to offer.

Noise

The 8.5 S motor is powerful but quiet. The two main sources of noise on any treadmill are the sound of the motor and the impact noise generated by each foot strike. The motor on the 8.5 S is very quiet and generates hardly any noise while inclining, declining, etc. There is a bit of footstrike noise, but less than we hear on comparable treadmills. The FlexSelect cushioning helps absorb some of that impact noise.

Storage / Folding

The 8.5 S is a folding treadmill — which is one of our favorite features! This is a good sized deck that folds up when not in use and locks in place for safety. To fold the deck, simply grab the bar at the base of the deck and lift. You will hear it lock into place. To unlock, hold the bar again and press your foot against the release lever under the deck (marked in yellow). The deck will slowly descend to the floor via a hydraulic release system — so you don’t have to guide it down. Just release the latch and let go and the 8.5 S deck will gently descend to the floor without any impact or thud.


Bottom Line:

We are fans of the NordicTrack 8.5 S. This hearty machine is a great addition to any home gym or cardio training regimen. With a 3.5HP motor, you get 12mph max speed and a 12% incline grade for multiple training options! The expansive iFit database of classes and trainers makes it fun and entertaining to workout! You can take an indoor HIIT class or follow one of the iFit trainers on a hike, jog, walk or run anywhere in the world. We love that you can hike on a steep incline through the mountains of New Zealand to torch calories but still stay low impact. The 8.5 S gives you abundant training options and challenges on a cushioned, supportive deck that folds up when not in use.

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